NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio – For many high school athletes, the end of their senior season is bittersweet.
Some will be remembered for their records, but few will have inspired teammates more than Cedric Lehky.
Starting in the 8th grade, Lehky was invited to be a part of the North Royalton wrestling team.
Although he has Down syndrome, he has never been viewed as having limitations.
“If we sprint he sprints. If we do push-ups, he does push-ups. If we do sit-ups, he does sit-ups. It’s all the same so in that regard we try to say you are a wrestler, and when he is in here he’s just a wrestler. His name is ‘Ced.’ said Head Wrestling Coach Sean Folk.
During his high school career he has been embraced by teammates and classmates and voted as the Homecoming King.
Among his wrestling teammates, he has been an inspiration.
“He’s a big part of this team. When our morale is at the lowest when we are cutting weight, you know our energy is at its lowest, he brings us up,” said Aaron Hertel.
On Friday, Lehky wrestled his final match and, like so many matches before it, he did so to the cheers of parents, fans and members of both teams.
It was his final time on the mat, ‘pinning’ a cooperative opponent and ending what can be viewed as an undefeated season.
“They would all come up and high-five him and sit down and talk to him and I thought that was really nice too. It wasn’t just the North Royalton wrestlers but it was also the other teammates,” said his mother, Jeanette Brinkley.
“Some kids came down and sat right next to him and they had some conversations and they were genuinely just happy that Cedric was there and talking to him,” she added.
Brinkley says she can see the impact her son has had, not only at the school where he is somewhat of a celebrity, but outside of the school as well.
“Just to give hope to any other parent with special needs. He does everything that everyone else would do and I just never had any expectations that he well exceeded and it’s beyond amazing.”